Water is literally the key to life. Without water in our bodies, our organs cannot function and within days we will perish. Water makes up about 65% of our bodies and helps many processes in the body, including temperature regulation, blood fluidity, and proper cell functioning. Even just a decrease of 2% of body weight in water can cause symptoms of dehydration, including nervous system and metabolic dysfunctions, increased body temperature and heart rate, and increased risk for muscle damage. Even the thirst mechanism is a very early sign of mild dehydration. So how much water is required to maintain optimal health?
Our fluid intake is dependent on many variables. Athletes will need more water than a sedentary office worker. In the summertime, we will lose more water through sweat and heat and will need to take in more to compensate. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as opposed to empty processed carbohydrates will supply our body with more water. Even being male or female can make a difference in the amount of water we should consume. A conservative recommendation may be a female to consume around 90oz while a male should consume around 125oz (while up to 20% of this number can come from food intake). Although other recommendations include drinking an average of 2.5 liters of water a day as a sedentary adult and up to 2 gallons as an athlete. An easy way to keep adequate fluids is to aim for 4-8oz of water every hour throughout the day. To check for proper hydration both body weight and urine color can be great indicators. Urine should be a pale yellow color for great hydration whereas a darker and deeper color can indicated dehydration Taking a baseline body weight in the morning and re-checking after fluid loss (heavy exercise or sweating) can help track fluid loss as well. For athletes, even a slight drop in hydration can cause a 10% loss in muscle strength and 8% loss in speed.
Oddly enough, as important as water is to our body, too much water at one time can also wreak havoc on our systems. This is a great example of moderation being key. Excess water consumption can cause Hyponatremia which is a dangerous and serious condition in which the blood is too diluted and the salt concentration is too high. The kidneys do not have adequate time to flush the water and it causes the blood to be waterlogged, in turn, water enters the cells causing them to expand. Because there is not extra room for this expansion in the skull, excess fluid in the neurons in the brain cause brain swelling which can cause complications that can lead to death. (Ballantyne 2007) This of course is rare and usually linked to pituitary issues in combination with excess water intake but it does pose the question of how much water is too much.
It seems that the best indicator for proper water intake includes drinking to thirst, checking urine, using body weight checks and making up for water loss (taking in extra water) during exercise, sweating or excessive heat. (Ballantyne 2007)
Remember during these hot summer months to keep water on hand and drink often!
Maintaining Proper Hydration - Online Articles: National Council on Strength and Fitness Trainer’s Tools. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2015, from https://www.ncsf.org/enew/articles/articles- properhydration.aspx
Proper hydration: How much water is enough? NCAA, Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.ncaa.org/health-and-safety/nutrition-and-performance/proper-hydration-how-much- water-enough
Ballantyne, C. (2007) Strange but True: Drinking Too Much Water Can Kill. Scientific American Retrieved November 25, 2015, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but- true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill/